Thailand Box Jellyfish Death Another Warning To Travelling Families
The tragic loss of another young life to a lethal multi-tentacle box jellyfish is impossibly sad for all involved. The 5 year old French boy killed at Bottle Beach at the north end of Koh Phangan was standing in shallow water when stung. In an instant, a family holiday in paradise turned into a nightmare as desperate attempts were made to save his little life. The boy died in the car with his distraught parents on the long journey to a poorly equipped local hospital.
The circumstances of the boys death are sadly familiar.
Families travelling to South-East Asia are in for a wonderfully enriching experience. Child safety is obviously a priority for parents, and families usually travel prepared with insurance, first-aid kits and the like. However, we can't control everything and unforeseen situations do arise. When they occur in remote, unfamiliar, unprepared places the consequences can be catastrophic.
A box jellyfish at such a beautiful beach would not enter most visitors' minds. There are no warning signs. There is no mention of a potential risk. No word from the hotel or bungalow. Nothing on the website. Nothing in the brochure. Certainly a child running and splashing around in the shallows with parents close at hand will be safe.
A good majority of box jellyfish sting victims are children. Kids tend to run into the water, move quickly, jump and dive and splash about more than adults. Box jellyfish catch their prey of small fish and crustaceans in the sandy-bottom shallows, and while the animal has a vision system that alerts it to movement and obstacles so that it can avoid danger and move out of the way, it's not that fast and kids quickly get tangled up in sticky tentacles.Further Reading:
What's a tragedy on one hand but good news on the other is that with the right information, proper precautions and correct treatment, most deaths and injuries could have and can be avoided.
Firstly, the locals know there are box jellyfish in the seas in the area. They also know that there have been stings. Tourism and hospitality officials also know. The Thai government has been providing information for years and encouraging, urging them to be proactive and avoid the very scenario that occurred on Saturday (23 August 2014). They have done nothing. They justify their inaction by saying stings are not so common - do you think the boy's parents were interested in this when for them it was a moment of life or death?
There needs to be permanent jellyfish warning signs and vinegar poles on beaches at Koh Phangan. These signs and vinegar poles are prominently located at beaches around Phuket, Koh Chang, Koh Mak, Koh Kood, Koh Lipe and more. The signs and poles are recommended by the Thai authorities. So why not here and Koh Samui where the government medicos have provided booklets, posters, DVDs and seminars.
Parents, please. Put your children in lycra suits. While it's tempting to just let them run wild, get some sun and not have the hassle of a costume; it is practical and it is effective. Tropical seas are a wilderness that while beautiful contain hidden dangers. A lycra suit could be a life-saver! They are not so expensive, light-weight, cover arms and legs, 100% protect from harmful UV rays and will stop all jellyfish from stinging, not just box jellyfish. Plus you don't need to smother your children in coral-polluting sun screen. Kids only need to wear a suit when in the water. Also, carry a bottle of vinegar, just in case.
For many years now in beaches across Australia's tropical north coast, a box jellyfish safety system including warning signs, vinegar poles, prevention swimming nets, trained lifeguards, trained paramedics and doctors, public education (industry, schools, etc) plus available anti-venom and ongoing scientific research have saved lives. Go to Australia and relax in the tropics and when snorkelling or swimming in box jellyfish season (note: there is no known season in Thailand!) you will wear a lycra suit, everyone does!
There will be more stings. Without question. Who knows when, but they will happen. Hopefully the locals and their industry representatives can rapidly see beyond their own interests and do the right thing for their visitors by implementing a jellyfish safety system. And hopefully parents when planning the dream family trip will consider box jellyfish as a risk worth noting by ensuring their children are safely protected in a lycra suit. Anti-jellyfish creams and lotions are NOT proven to be effective in providing protection against dangerous jellyfish in these waters.
Postscript: A few warning signs and vinegar stations have been erected at Bottle Beach since this tragedy.
The father of this young boy has written to this blog and Phuketwan.com saying that vinegar was demanded at the time but none was made available. He said the boy died at the scene within 2 minutes of the sting.
Read his comment here:
To also answer a few points raised in the coverage of this incident:
The venom from a multi-tentacle box jellyfish sting can kill and kill quickly. It is the venom, not an allergic reaction or shock that does the damage. It's the venom.
There is NO box jellyfish season that anyone in Thailand is aware of. None. No research has been done. Saying that the season at Koh Phangan and Thailand runs until October is wrong. Dangerously wrong. As far as anyone knows, box jellyfish are around all year.